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9. Bilateral meetings

Purpose
To ensure that every stakeholder feels that their views and concerns are being heard and that they play a role in shaping the decisions that conform to the dialogue process, as well as to test the waters ahead of an upcoming dialogue event in order to mitigate any potential risk of conflict among participants.
Rationale
These exchanges should aim at collecting personal impressions about the process, exploring possible areas of contention, searching for common ground and setting the path towards consensus. They can be organised at any moment during the process, but they are particularly important during the Collective Assessment phase, as a means of briefing each stakeholder beforehand on the purpose and features of the INSPIRED dialogue process. They can also be very useful during the Consensus Building shortly before a dialogue event (focus group, deliberative workshop or other), as they help the facilitator to identify any potential points of contention and steer the discussions around sensitive issues that might put the dialogue process at risk.
In general terms, bilateral meetings are the tool most frequently used by Dialogue Hosts, as it provides a more confidential setting that is more conducive to straight talk than events with larger participation. This can lead to the kind of frankness that seldom finds its way in public events and thus allows the facilitator to figure out in advance what are the most likely commitments that each stakeholder is ready to make.
Outcomes
  • Improved intelligence on the positions and red lines of the stakeholders engaged.
  • Points of contention and potential opportunities for compromise are explored.
  • Stakeholders are reassured about their importance in the process.